Lifestyle, personal trainers, Trainer Tips

Overworked and Underpaid: How Gyms Take Advantage of Personal Trainers

New Year’s Resolutions, the urge to get “Bikini Ready,” or the push to lose baby weight are all high motivators that typically result in people hiring a trainer. Local gyms even offer promotions for the New Year or right before the summer.  And the industry is ever-growing at alarming rates.

A recent study by IBIS World recorded that the personal training industry grew 2.5% between 2010 and 2015. The $10 billion industry employs almost 300,000 people and businesses, and those numbers are projected to increase by 1.6%. But how much money do trainers actually make? And is it enough to keep them motivated? Let’s find out.

Underpaid (and Under-qualified?)

In 2012, CNN Money recorded that the average salary of a personal trainer is $56,000 a year. Note that this is higher than the findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which  recorded the average salary in 2015 as $36,160 a year, and only $17 per hour. That aligns with the average rates that a personal trainer working at a membership fitness center receives: $10-$20/hour.

Fitness centers and gyms charge clients approximately $65 per session, and the trainer only receives (on average) $25 – less than half.

Gyms have been getting away with this poor treatment of personal trainers for years. A lot of gyms don’t require their trainers to have a 4-year degree and accreditation and proper certifications to be a trainer. All they require is a small amount of training, perhaps a 2-year degree, and to pass an online training course.overworked-underpaid-trainer

So what does this mean? It means that a trainer that has a college degree and personal training certifications is getting paid the same as a “trainer” with only an online certification.

Not only do certified trainers get shorted, but clients also miss out on receiving the highest level of training possible. They pay large amounts of money for a trainer that may not be certified by a nationally accredited certification.

Check out this list of personal training certifications to make sure you have a proper education.

Too Many Job Titles

The biggest issue between gyms and personal trainers is that although they are hired to train clients, they get roped into being salespeople, too.

Many large gyms require that their trainers make a certain number of sales each month. Gyms that have partnerships with health companies require their trainers to reach quota by selling supplements, protein shakes, athletic wear and equipment, and other products that they gym supports.

Products aren’t the only thing that need to be sold. A lot of gyms require the trainers to sell personal training packages, and along with that requirement, they have to meet quota to keep their jobs. Granted, trainers that are motivated and want to do a good job have no problem reaching their goals and sales quotas, that shouldn’t be the main concern.

Trainers’ goals should be focused on their client’s best interest and their client’s goals. Not how many protein shakes they sell each month.

Overworked With Nothing To Show

Along with the sales quotas that need to be met each month, many gyms require their trainers to meet a minimum number of training sessions each week.

Trainers that don’t meet their weekly minimum are often at risk for losing their jobs, at the mercy of the gym. Oftentimes this means working long days, weekends, and holidays. And if they work overtime, the gyms don’t compensate for hours longer than what they are scheduled to work. If you are sick or on vacation, then it is your loss, and the gym won’t take that into consideration when calculating your weekly sessions.  

Unfair requirements for trainers make it very easy to get burnt out, fast.

As if that weren’t unfair enough, only 43% of full-time personal trainers receive health benefits, according to a study by the American Council on Exercise.  As a personal trainer, you run the risk of getting injured on the job: sprains, tears, cuts, fractures, and even breaks are all possible. Not having health insurance means having very costly bills, requiring you to work longer, harder, and potentially injuring yourself again. Gyms have created a vicious cycle. One where the trainer frequently wins.

On the rare occasion where a gym offers minimum health coverage, there are stipulations (again, another quota). One gym required their employees to complete 35 sessions a week for 3 months in order to qualify for coverage. If you are sick or take vacation time and don’t meet the 35 required sessions, you miss out. Even worse, if your clients go out of town or cancel their sessions for a day, gyms still hold that against your missing quota and you lose out on health coverage. There is massive pressure to keep up your hours in fear of losing your job and incentives.overworked-underpaid-personal-trainer

Not that working in a gym leaves much time for extra work, but many gyms require their trainers to sign non-compete forms that prohibit them from training independently outside of the gym. Trainers more or less have their wings clipped by their employer. Having the ability to teach, train, or hone their skills outside of their place of employment could result in breaking their contract, and ultimately, losing their job.

The Takeaway

Gyms are getting away with overworking and underpaying their trainers because trainers want and need jobs to help pay off their student loans, pay their bills, or have a job within their area of expertise.  And, as long as customers want to get fit, trainers will always have a home at a gym.

But keep in mind that while making $35,000-$50,000 a year at a gym, you’ll also be paying for health insurance and benefits. Depending on where you live, that can run you around $400 each month out-of-pocket for health insurance, not including dental or vision plans and coverage.

Being employed by a gym means selling yourself short. You’re limiting the kind of training you can practice, the amount of money you make each month, and the kind of work you’ll be performing.  

Trainers that work in gyms ultimately choose to train in a private studio which allows them to create their own schedules, make more revenue, and take control of their own lives.  

If you want the personal and financial freedom that personal training can offer, take a look and see how gymGO is helping trainers receive more revenue, while offering convenience and affordability. Get out from under the thumb of a corporate gym and get started on your path to the career you’ve always wanted!

About The Author

Kellie Handley

Kellie is the Social Media Specialist at gymGO. She loves writing blogs, sharing photos, and staying up-to-date on all social media trends. When she's not busy writing or researching her next article, you can find her reading, trying out a new recipe (or restaurant!), binge-watching Netflix, or shopping with her daughter, Caroline.

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